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Nicola Chiaromonte papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 113

Scope and Contents

The Nicola Chiaromonte Papers document aspects of the life and career of the writer Nicola Chiaromonte. The papers span the dates 1920–1982.

The papers have been arranged in five series. Series I, Correspondence, is housed in Boxes 1-4 and consists of two sections, Incoming Correspondence and Outgoing Correspondence. Series II, Writings (Boxes 5-10), contains works by Chiaromonte and is arranged in three subseries, Manuscripts, Printed Works, and Theater Reviews. Series III, Writings of Others, housed in Box 11, is arranged alphabetically by author. Series IV, Personal Papers (Boxes 11-17), consists entirely of chronologically arranged notebooks kept by Chiaromonte over the course of his career. Series V, 2009 Acquisition (Boxes 20-23), consists of additional correspondence, works by Chiaromonte, and notebooks.

Series I, Correspondence, has been divided into incoming and outgoing correspondence. Much of the correspondence concerns Chiaromonte's literary activities and political views, although there are several folders of letters to his relatives (Box 4, folders 104-13), including his parents and his first wife, Annie Pohl Chiaromonte.

Major correspondents include Lionel Abel, Andrea Caffi, Albert Camus, Mary McCarthy, Dwight MacDonald, André Malraux, Gaetano Salvemini, and Ignazio Silone. The correspondence with Caffi begins at the time of Chiaromonte's first real involvement with the Giustizia e Libertà movement and continues, with interruptions, until Caffi's death in 1954. The earlier letters trace the evolution of both men's political views and their eventual break with Giustizia e Libertà, as well as their increasing concerns over events in the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Spanish Civil War, and the growing belligerence of the Fascist countries.

Caffi and Chiaromonte were unable to correspond during World War II, and when their correspondence resumed Chiaromonte was in New York. He wrote to Caffi describing the literary figures whom he had met there, including Dwight MacDonald, Philip Rahv, and Mary McCarthy, and explaining the political outlook in postwar America. On his part, Caffi detailed the often chaotic developments in Western Europe and his responses to them, and commented on events in the United States described to him by Chiaromonte.

Caffi hoped that European intellectuals would unite to lead a cultural reawakening in postwar Europe, and urged Chiaromonte to return from America to join this effort. In this he was seconded by Albert Camus, although Camus's letters to Chiaromonte reveal a rather more pessimistic assessment of conditions in France and Italy. Letters from 1946-47 refer to Kafka as a prophet, and describe "l'américanisation de l'Europe," the influence of Communism, and the fragmented intellectual scene. Camus also discusses his work, the news Chiaromonte sends him from America, and party politics in France.

Alberto Moravia's letters concern his own nuanced political position, his dissent from Stalinism, the complexities of postwar Italian party politics, and the state of Italian theater. Letters from 1932-33 describe Moravia's travels and his views of Hitler's rise and its implications for Germany. Chiaromonte's correspondence with Gaetano Salvemini is likewise political; several letters deal with a proposed article by Chiaromonte on Benedetto Croce.

The collection contains few letters from Ignazio Silone, co-editor of Tempo Presente, but there are four folders of photocopies and carbons of Chiaromonte letters to him. There is relatively little information on the editing and publication of the periodical, although letters from 1963 and 1964 document an editorial disagreement about John Hunt. Many letters predate World War II and explain Chiaromonte's evolving dissatisfaction with the Giustizia e Libertà movement. Chiaromonte also comments on works by Silone and current events, including the forced repatriation of Russian displaced persons.

Letters from Dwight MacDonald and Mary McCarthy describe life among New York intellectuals, particularly their personal and political disagreements, and discuss their own positions and alliances. A letter by MacDonald (September 14, 1948) relates his objections to Stalinism and his belief that "extreme positions like pacifism...[are] no longer rational, in political terms, today." McCarthy's letters offer her reactions to the personalities and politics of the "New Left" in the later 1960s, her opposition to the Vietnam war and plans to visit Hanoi, and analysis of her fiction.

Chiaromonte's most extensive American correspondence was with Lionel Abel. Abel's letters (Box 1, folders 2-6) discuss, among other topics, the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet, the interaction of moral responsibility with politics, his response to events ranging from the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan through the Cuban missile crisis to the Vietnam War, and the relation of classical philosophy to modern thought. The works of Hannah Arendt are a frequent subject of commentary. Abel sent Chiaromonte news about theater in New York and Abel's own writing.

Series II, Writings, (Boxes 5-10), consists of three subseries, Manuscripts, Printed Works, and Theater Reviews. Manuscripts is further divided into two sections, "Articles and Books" and "Notes," both arranged alphabetically by title. "Articles and Books" contains fairly complete drafts of many pieces on politics, theater and film, and literature. Several articles, including the early "L'Europe contra L'Espagne" and "Guerre d'Espagne" (Box 5, folders 159, 165) concern Chiaromonte's view of the Spanish Civil War, in which he participated on the Republican side. Others develop Chiaromonte's thoughts on Communism and Fascism, political theater, and such authors as Albert Camus, Jean Genet, Simone Weil, and Andrea Caffi. The subsection "Notes" is alphabetically arranged by subject and includes material on film, the political thought of Andrea Caffi, and the brutal conditions in Spanish prisons after the defeat of the Republicans.

Printed Works, housed in Box 7, consists almost entirely of clippings of articles published by Chiaromonte between 1926 and 1934 on nonpolitical subjects such as film, English literature, and general cultural commentary.

Series III, Writings of Others, fills nine folders and includes copies of two articles by Domenico Carella, a typescript of Dwight MacDonald's comments on "Remarks on Justice," and a newspaper column on film by Alberto Moravia.

Series IV, Personal Papers, (Boxes 11-17), contains notebooks kept by Chiaromonte throughout his adult life, arranged chronologically. The notebooks from 1955 until his death were numbered sequentially and brief "tables of contents" are found at the beginning of each numbered notebook.

The notebooks present Chiaromonte's thoughts on many of the subjects that occupied him throughout his career. Notebook 41 (1967 October–December), for example, contains sections titled "Cristianesimo e tempi nostri," "Eros tiranno (Rep. 575 a)," "Foucault, la pazzia, la parola, la morte," "Violenza (fatalità della)," and "Malraux 1926-1967." Comments inspired by newspaper accounts, usually relating to political events, are often accompanied by clippings or a transcription of the original article.

There are rare personal entries scattered throughout the notebooks, and the 1940-41 notepads (Box 12, folder 312) contain much biographical information, including details of his escape from Paris and brief imprisonment in Marseilles.

Oversize material, housed in Box 18, consists of photographic reproductions of columns Chiaromonte contributed to Giustizia e Libertà between 1923 and 1935.

Series V, 2009 Acquisition, (Boxes 20-23), consists of three subseries, Correspondence, Writings, and Personal Papers. Included are letters from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, letters exchanged between Chiaromonte's relatives, and diaries and notebooks kept by Chiaromonte.


  • 1920 - 1982


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 19: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Nicola Chiaromonte Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Nicola Chiaromonte Papers were purchased in 1992 with funds from the Edwin J. Beinecke Legacy.

Gift of Martha Goldstein, 2009.


13.3 Linear Feet (23 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Nicola Chiaromonte Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, clippings and notebooks documenting the professional life of Chiaromonte. Prominent correspondents include Lionel Abel, Giorgio Agamben, Andrea Caffi, Albert Camus, Mary McCarthy, Dwight MacDonald, Gaetano Salvemini, and Ignzaio Silone. Series II contains typescripts, notes and clippings of many articles by Chiaromonte, including several concerning the Spanish Civil War, as well as three boxes of his theater reviews. There are also over eighty notebooks kept by Chiaromonte from 1923 until his death.


Nicola Chiaromonte, journalist and political thinker, was born in 1905 and educated in Rome. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he worked as a critic and essayist for reviews like Solaria and was considered perhaps the premier film critic in Italy. In 1934, while in Paris for a brief sojourn, he learned that his arrest had been ordered in Italy and did not return there. In Paris, with Andrea Caffi, he furthered his involvement with the antifascist Giustizia e Libertà movement, writing articles for their newspaper. When the Civil War broke out in Spain, Chiaromonte enrolled in the air squadron organized by André Malraux, and saw service during the battle for Madrid.

Chiaromonte's first wife, Annie Pohl, died early in 1940 of lung disease, and Chiaromonte himself fled Paris during the German invasion of France. After a dangerous journey to Marseilles, where he was briefly imprisoned, he crossed to North Africa and eventually traveled to the United States. There he settled in New York, where he met and married his second wife, Miriam. Chiaromonte associated with such writers as Lionel Abel, Mary McCarthy, Dwight MacDonald and Philip Rahv, and was a contributor to Politics and Partisan Review.

In 1950 he returned to Paris, moving to Italy in 1953. Three years later, Chiaromonte and Ignazio Silone founded Tempo presente, which they edited until 1968. Chiaromonte was drama critic for the Mondo of Pannunzio from 1953 to 1966, and then for L'Espresso from 1968 until his death. During his lifetime, in addition to his many articles and essays, he published two books: La situazione drammatica in 1959 and Credere e non credere in 1971. Nicola Chiaromonte died in 1972. Several posthumous collections of his work have been published.

Guide to the Nicola Chiaromonte Papers
Under Revision
by Beinecke Staff and Nora Soto
April 1994. Revised: March 2023
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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